Chuck Olson

"The region of Western Pennsylvania has literally formed the background of my development- my birth, my upbringing, my education and my work. As an American painter educated within the last quarter of the 20th century, the powerful example of Abstract Expressionism, which marked the self defining American break with European modernism, pulled me into its energy and provided me with a way of seeing with which to respond to my experience. Part of that experience was also taken intellectually with the importance of history and its accompanying conscience which allowed for the development of imagery based on a hybrid of gestural abstraction and representation of forms gleaned from the past.

Perhaps my earlier declaration as an “American painter” should contain an asterisk as I have a French wife and a Franco-American life that wonders about where it belongs. This restlessness, caused by cultural collision, allows me the potential , I believe, to constantly reflect on how one sees, constructs life, and then proceeds to take it all in. It is in spending time in France that affords me an opportunity to understand the “American” and the “French” is examined within the context of time spent in Western Pennsylvania. There is something of American energy and French mystery that drives me. This Franco American duality is also there in my definition as artist and professor. Some think that it shows and perhaps it shows best within my work."

On Sheltering In Place Exhibit:

Pink Hill

Acrylic and Collage 12" x12" 2020

The approach to a summit is so inviting to the hiker who has invested time and energy to earn its point of view. This notion, joined with the Fauvist philosophy that one should choose color according to feeling not observation, often motivates my color choice.

There are two "realities"- one is physical and the other emotional. To arrive at feeling, one has to let go of a measure of the surface of things and, therein, one finds visual freedom in the response.

Le Sentier (The Path)

Acrylic on panel 12" x12" 2020

Taking a trailhead to begin a hiking adventure is a combination of exercise, hope, and anticipation. Along the way, one often pauses to admire a view, a curiosity, or to be reassured that one is not lost. Piles of carefully placed stones organized by previous hikers mark the way and are welcomed sites. These "Stone Age" structures are often sculptural beyond their practical value and worth a photograph or two.

In this image, on a trail above a large plain of water, there emerges a cairn of rocks to direct one's movement over an outcropping. Whether in the Shenandoah, the Maine coast, Brittany, or the Cinque Terre, the poetics of these experiences come to resonate in the studio. Mystery and Reassurance.

Kite I

Acrylic on panel 12" x12" 2020

In 2018, I began to do a series of sketches for which the subject was centered on the idea of a kite. Kites are peculiar in that , as very fragile flying machines, they can soar with pride and, seconds later, crash in disgrace. The partnership between the kite flyer and his light weight companion is a relationship of mutual trust as each is responsible for doing one's duty as it were.

I like the metaphors and the lessons in kite flying. This is the first of a series in examining the form of a "kite" as it moves through its given space. Air, water, wind, paper, and landscape motivate the choices in color and form. A lifting, ripe with doubt, but fueled by mutual determination.

Kite II

Acrylic on canvas 12" x12" 2020

This is the second image in the "Kite Series" exploring the form and fragility of flight. This painting evokes the influence of French/Russian artist Nicolas De Stael in using "blocks" of color to build the structure. This method presents the act of clear cut decisions on color as they form to fit an image.

The subject of this painting is arguably the large field of blue allowing passage for the kite shape to rise.

High Sierra

Acrylic and Collage 12"w x 12"h 2020

In 1984, I became a disciple of hiking thanks to Marie, who has long been an example of the French wisdom in weekly (if not daily) taking to a trail in the name of good health and discovery. In that year, we set out to discover each other by way of experiencing trails: Long's Peak in Colorado, Arches National Park in Utah, Mesa Verde, Carlsbad, the Louisiana swamps around St. Martinville, the Smokies, the Shenandoah, and the Outer Banks. It has never stopped.

One takes these experiences back to the studio. They pop up like buried thoughts to influence one's search for images. Here, in the midst of the Covid-19 quarantine, the beautiful heat and air of the Southwest returned to be recognized and I was on the trail again.

The Artists Hand Gallery © 2019